Playing on IPR fears: The China domain name registry scam

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You may have received a very helpful looking email lately alerting you to the fact that a Chinese company was attempting to register your domain name here in China, and should you take action quickly, you could not only stop this from happening, but also properly register your domain name and protect your copyright in the barren wasteland of IPR that is China.

It’s all so nice and helpful, and it plays on fears of China as a legal quagmire where anything and everything gets copied. But as the global intellectual property consultancy Rouse & Co. International point out, it may be part of a scam that has been doing the rounds in China for several years now.

This is what they have to say about it.

In China, as elsewhere, the domain name registration system does not require applicants to show that they have any legitimate interest in or right to a name in order to register it as a domain name. Applications are, therefore, not subjected to substantive examination.

The domain name system in China is operated and administered by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which lists on its website, www.cnnic.net, all accredited domestic domain name registries.

In recent years, brand owners in China have been receiving emails from companies that purport to be, but are not in fact, official Chinese domain name registries.

These emails indicate that the registry concerned has received applications for the registration of domain names that include brand or trading names belonging to the email recipient. They suggest that if these applications have not been authorized by the brand owner, contact should be made with the registry so that the issue can be properly addressed and the interests of the brand owner protected. When contact is made with the registry, the email recipient is encouraged to register various domain names in the “.cn” and other TLDs in order to protect themselves against the activities of the applicant. In some cases, additional, related services are also being offered.

If you receive an email of this sort, you should check carefully before responding. If the company sending the email is not listed as an accredited registry on the CNNIC website, the email should be ignored. It may, however, prompt you to review your domain name registration policy.

“It makes sense to register not just your company domain as a dot com, but also the country jurisdiction as well,” says Richard Hoffmann, Dezan Shira & Associates’ IPR lawyer. “So for example with ‘Acme Ltd,’ we would recommend, in addition to the domain www.acme.com, registration of www.acme.com.cn as well as pertinent derivatives such as acme-china.com and so on. Regrettably few international businesses are taking up options on the .com.cn registrations and unscrupulous businesses in China are taking advantage of this.”

For guidance on this matter we recommend contacting Rouse & Co. International as China IPR specialists, with Linda Chang being the main contact. Rouse have offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong and are recognized industry leaders in IPR legal matters.

3 Responses

  • David Watters says:

    Good advice, thanks. I’ll get this done.

  • Mike Carter says:

    One of the annoying traits of China yet easy to correct. Most PRC IPR legal comment forgets about the small stuff but this is still important for us who’re doing biz here. It is sound advice to get the dotcom.cn domain registered. Thankyou for pointing this out and the scam.

  • SK says:

    Thank you very much for the advice and also the relevant links. I have just received such email from one John

    Dear Manager,

    (If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)

    This email is from China domain name registration center, which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally in China and Asia.
    On September 5th 2011, We received Tianhua Ltd’s application that they are registering the name ” XXX ” as their Internet Keyword and ” XXX.cn “、” XXX .com.cn ” 、” XXX.asia “domain names etc.., It is China and ASIA domain names. But after auditing we found the brand name been used by your company. As the domain name registrar in China, it is our duty to notice you, so I am sending you this Email to check. According to the principle in China, your company is the owner of the trademark, In our auditing time we can keep the domain names safe for you firstly, but our audit period is limited, if you object the third party application these domain names and need to protect the brand in china and Asia by yourself, please let the responsible officer contact us as soon as possible. Thank you!

    Best Regards,

    John
    General Manager
    Shanghai Office (Head Office)
    3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road,
    Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
    Tel: +86 216191 8696
    Mobile: +86 136615 29704
    Fax: +86 216191 8697

    and it was also followed up by a very agressive email from his “client”

    Dear Sirs,

    We are Tianhua Ltd based in Chinese office. We will register the “XXX ” as internet keyword and CN/Asia internet domain names. We have handed in our application and are waiting for Mr. John’s approval. We think this name is important for our products in Chinese market. Even though Mr. John advises us to change another name, we will persist in this name and permanent registration of this name.

    Best regards

    Lin Dong

    The funny thing is my domain name does not even have any particular meaning in Chinese.It’s only have meaning in my native language

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